Are you a current or incoming college student? Scholarships are a great way to fund your education and reduce the financial burden on you and/or your family.
Good grades and active participation in extracurricular activities count, but to win a scholarship, you need to stand out from the crowd and impress the scholarship committee at your dream college.
One of the ways to stand out and show your true self– beyond numbers and words– is through the interview. In this article, we’ll provide you with the ultimate guide to preparing for and nailing your scholarship interview.
Research the scholarship and the organization
Before the interview, start by researching the scholarship itself. Look at the eligibility requirements, the application process, and what the scholarship covers (tuition fees, living expenses, etc.). In addition to financial aid, scholarships often come with additional benefits such as book support, internship opportunities, and academic contacts.
Be aware that scholarships may also have certain requirements that must be fulfilled. This could include participating in research projects, attending conferences, or committing to work for a specific company or organization after graduation.
Additionally, some scholarships require periodic renewals, usually on an annual basis. For these reasons, thoroughly research and understand the requirements and expectations of any scholarship you are considering before making a decision.
Look for information about their goals, values, and mission, and any press releases or news articles about the university. If possible, look at past scholarship recipients and see what qualities and achievements they had that made them stand out. This information will give you a better understanding of what the organization is looking for in a candidate and will help you tailor your responses during the interview.
Prepare your responses
Think about the common questions that are asked during scholarship interviews and practice your responses. Consider the typical open-ended questions such as “Why do you deserve this scholarship?”, “What are your future goals?”, and “What sets you apart from other candidates?”.
The common “tell me about yourself” question is a chance to steer the conversation in the direction you want to go. Begin by providing a general overview of yourself and then hone in on a specific aspect or story that aligns with the question. This enables you to emphasize and showcase your skills and qualities as a candidate.
Make a list of questions and think about how you would answer each one. Be sure to highlight your unique qualities, achievements, and why you are a good fit for the scholarship. When answering questions, be specific and concise in your responses. Avoid generic answers and instead provide specific examples of your experiences and achievements. Show them you are passionate about education and have a genuine interest in your chosen field.
When you have curated a list of questions and answers, practice in the mirror to help you feel more confident and comfortable during the interview. Have a pen and paper ready to take notes and remember key points as details relating to the scholarship may also be discussed.
Your appearance is an important aspect of making a good impression so you should dress as if you are going to a professional job interview. Research the dress code to help determine the level of formality required.
It is advisable to avoid wearing overly casual or shabby attire such as a t-shirt and jeans. It is more appropriate to wear business casual attire such as dresses, slacks, collared shirts, or skirts. Choose comfortable clothing in neutral colors like black, navy, brown, or grey. Also, pay attention to grooming by making sure your hair is neatly styled and your nails are clean and trimmed. This is especially important if your interview is in-person!
Be confident and positive
Before the interview, engage in positive self-talk. Stay focused on the opportunities the scholarship could bring, rather than on potential setbacks. Remind yourself that you have done your best to prepare for the interview, and followed tips to effectively remember everything you studied so there’s no need to worry as your achievements and thorough preparation will show why you are the best fit.
During the interview, be confident and positive. Your demeanor during the interview can have a significant impact on how the committee perceives you and your chances of winning the scholarship.
You should also smile and make eye contact while speaking at a steady pace. Maintain good posture and avoid nervous habits such as fidgeting or tapping your foot. Listen carefully to ensure you understand the questions and are able to respond appropriately.
Follow-up after the interview
Soon after your interview (within the following 24 hours), send a polite thank-you email to the interviewer to show that you appreciate the opportunity that you’ve been given, as well as the time that the interviewer took with you. This can help leave a good last impression.
After the interview, be patient and avoid pestering the committee for updates, it may take several weeks or months to make a decision. The scholarship organization’s website may state how long you can expect to wait. If you haven’t heard back long after the interview, it is fine to follow up with a polite email or phone call.
You may also take this opportunity to ask for feedback. They can provide valuable insights into what the committee liked about your interview and what areas you can improve on for future interviews. If you are selected for the scholarship, be prepared to provide additional information or complete additional steps to secure the scholarship. Read through the committee’s follow-up instructions carefully and respond promptly to any requests.
Additional tips and tricks
- Select the appropriate people to ask for a recommendation letter. It is best to ask someone who knows you well and feels confident in their ability to write a positive and insightful recommendation about you. Consider asking a faculty member in your current university, a church leader, or a volunteer coordinator, unless the scholarship specifically requires a recommendation from a professor. This will ensure that the recommendation letters you receive are well-rounded and accurately reflect your skills, character, and achievements.
- Check your technology. If the interview is remote, make sure that your internet connection is stable to ensure a seamless interview. If your connection is not reliable, it is recommended to have a backup plan in place, such as a portable hotspot as a backup connection if needed.
Research and practice strategies to ace your scholarship interview. Be two steps ahead of the game by creating a college planning pack. By following the tips and tricks outlined in this article, you’ll be well-prepared to make a great impression and increase your chances of winning the scholarship. Good luck!